Right or wrong, the work of an artist can give you an expectation of how they will be if you meet them. That is why I was looking forward to interviewing Gavin Michael Booth and Daved Wilkins, two of the filmmakers behind the original indie drama Last Call.
Last Call tells the story of Scott, a man who calls Beth by accident instead of the suicide hotline, which causes these two strangers to meet with a life on the line.
Last Call will have its West Coast Premiere at the Dances With Films Festival on June 18, 2019 at 7:15 PM. Last Call is very unique in that the whole movie is a split screen showing these two characters in a single take. This real time feel surely adds to the minute by minute tension of the story.
Gavin Booth follows in the new tradition of wearing many hats in the process of his work. And that body of work has ranged from single take music videos, feature films and Fifteen, which is the first narrative movie to stream live on the popular phone app Periscope. It is worth knowing that Fifteen was produced by Jason Blum of Blumhouse.
Daved Wilkins plays Scott, one of the stars and is a writer and producer of Last Call. Gavin Booth is the Director, a Producer and also credited as a writer on the movie. Thankfully, the numbers were dialed right when all three of us were patched in on a conference call for our phone interview.
During the small talk before the interview, an undulating rhythmic sound leads to Gavin saying:
Gavin Booth: I’m about to walk past a very loud car wash but I will be home in a few minutes.
Daved Wilkins: That’s you? (Loud enough to be heard above the noise.)
GB: I’m on my private jet on the way to Dances With Films Fest.
Curt Wiser: He’s on his G-6.
DW: More like the Gee wiz.
(At that point it was clear I was not only about to interview two collaborators, but also two close friends. This is going to be a fun interview I thought as I let loose with my first question.)
Curt Wiser: I’m a big fan of single take features like Timecode, (and Victoria) were any of these movies an influence for Last Call?
GB: 100 Percent, Timecode is one of my favorite movies ever. I’ve been a huge fan of everything since Hitchcock’s Rope. I had previously developed what was going to be a four quadrant feature, but unfortunately that was about a shooting at a high school and every time we were funded and ready to go to camera, another real life school shooting would occur. It kept falling apart. So when Daved came to me with the idea of Last Call and a man calling a suicide hotline, we started discussing, why don’t we do both sides of the phone call.
DW: I think that’s something Gavin and I have in common is a love for extended takes. The idea of doing Last Call in a single take and showing it split screen was our way of making a phone call more interesting.
Curt Wiser: How did you navigate writing duel narratives in the screenplay?
GB: We wrote it as a traditional screenplay. Then once we had the script we broke it down in more of a visual way, column A and column B what’s going to be happening on either side of the screen.
DW: When we first sat down, I’d actually written two screenplays for both sides. We then went back and pieced together what actions we wanted for the characters.
GB: One fun story that not many people know yet is that we ended up re-writing this film a couple days before shooting. We were able to film every rehearsal and put those rough takes side by side. That’s how everyone could look at it, and figure out where they could improve. We found that even though it was compelling on the page, it didn’t quite work on screen. So Daved and I sat down and pulled an all-nighter to re-write the script.
DW: One of the biggest changes was taking the premeditation out of the mix. And not knowing what was going to happen.
Curt Wiser: How many days or takes did you shoot of Last Call?
GB: We had 10 days of rehearsal and 4 days of filming. We ended up with 5 takes total and the first take that we did on the third day is what gives us the movie.
Curt Wiser: How did you accomplish directing two sets at once?
GB: Like a play, it’s all done in the rehearsals. It really came down to casting two actors who we knew could do this. (He added that the same goes for his crew as well.)
Curt Wiser: Did this split screen, single take concept come first, or was it story first?
GB: Story first. Daved and I run a weekly coffee get together here in Los Angeles, everyone gets together and talks about what they’re up to. At one of those meet ups, Daved said I have this idea, an acting piece, he said it was a short at first. I was like, I love this we’re going to make this. It was a little bit of both though, since Daved was in one of my single take music videos.
DW: It’s also knowing that if you’re going to make an independent film, you have to make something that will stand out.
Curt Wiser: Gavin, what was it like directing on set with your wife, Sarah Booth who plays Beth?
GB: Sarah is honestly the easiest actor on the planet to work with. She was in Fifteen, the live movie we did together. So, we had already gone through this single take journey before. She’s also a great problem solver. I have nothing but great things to say about working with her on this film….. other than when I had to look her in the eye and tell her we had to re-write the script. I know that look all too well to know that she was not happy initially.
Curt Wiser: In editing, was the choice to go from the horizontal split screen to vertical for composition reasons, or was it also part of the storytelling?
GB: We had always planned on it. We thought if they were separated one way when they were not on the phone together, and then in split screen the other way when they were connected (on the phone call), would keep things interesting. There were moments when we wanted to show them looking at each other (or away from each other) even though they are not in the same space. But in post we thought, you know Scott’s story is a downward spiral. So we found a transition when he would end up on the bottom (of the horizontal split screen).
Curt Wiser: This story of Last Call, which deals with suicide, was it personal for either of you?
DW: One of my dear friends, who actually ended up being one of the executive producers on the film. He had dealt with a very serious suicide with his best friend. He felt someone needed to make a film about it, that doesn’t glorify it, that doesn’t demean it, that just presents it as, this is a thing that some people deal with. It’s one of those topics that is still very taboo. The idea of having a mental health problem makes some people feel they are broken…… when in reality it’s just a part of being human.
GB: We made a film about mental health, but we didn’t make it necessarily to be a PSA or a statement. But if the film does help people with those issues and it does bring about conversation, that’s very thrilling. It’s always nice to know your film can carry a positive message.
Curt Wiser: You both hold multiple credits in order to make Last Call a reality. Was that out of necessity, or was that the plan from the beginning?
GB: Ah, Daved, you have anything to add to that?
(Thankfully for me, smiles cannot be senses through audio. This question gave them pause, if only for a brief second. I guess I’m not bad at this journalist thing after all.)
DW: Possibly out of necessity and I think part of it is just, that’s the way we’ve always done it. I’ve always worn every hat that I’ve needed to wear, unless I knew someone who could wear that hat. It’s definitely easier to not pay yourself….. than to not pay your friends.
(This is the part where I laugh loudly like an idiot. I too am an indie filmmaker, so I could totally relate to what Daved Wilkins was saying here.)
Curt Wiser: That’s very true.
GB: A little bit out of necessity since I had a long break after my previous film (“The Scarehouse”), and also this was a movie we could make on a scrappy budget and have full creative control in the process of making it.
Curt Wiser: What do you hope the future holds for Last Call?
GB: We are open to everything, whether it’s self distribution or an acquisition from a company. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, who’s ever reading this right now please call us.
(Gavin said that last bit in jest but I’m sure they would still not mind such a phone call.)
Curt Wiser: The last question I always love to ask, is there a question you wish you were asked in these Q and A’s….. now’s your time to answer it.
DW: Oh man…. ask me about the music in Last Call.
Curt Wiser: Go ahead, tell us about the music.
GB: It’s a favorite collaborator of mine, Adrian Ellis, he’s a Toronto based composer. In the spirit of how we shot this movie, he recorded the music with string players, in one live single take.